Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development Minister Thoko Didiza on May 12 tabled the department’s policy and 2022/23 budget.
Speaking at a pre-Budget Vote media briefing, Didiza outlined a budget of R17.3-billion, which would further enable the department to support food security through a range of programmes, both locally and provincially.
She said the bulk of the budget would go towards transfers to provinces and agricultural entities.
Part of the budget will go to the commercialisation of black farmers through land development support.
During this financial year, Didiza said, the department would endeavour to make basic infrastructure available to farmers. This would include sub divisions, fencing, borehole and basic input support.
She said another issue of concern to farmers was rural infrastructure, especially rural roads, both on and off farms. She said the department would undertake engagements to see how best this can be addressed, working closely with farmers and other stakeholders to ensure this is fixed.
Didiza said the land reform programme, which is critical in support agriculture, would continue, with this aiming especially to include women and youth, as these are important sectors of society.
She noted that the department was exploring arrangements for communal land, as it viewed this as a process that would enable it to unlock investment in rural communities.
Didiza on May 12 also signed the Agricultural and Agroprocessing Master Plan (AAMP) with stakeholders in the sector.
She said development of the AAMP needed to ensure it would provide a long-term view of where the industry wants to go, and to deal with issues facing the industry, including areas of ambiguity.
Moreover, she said it also looked at opportunities for market access and increasing production in these areas.
Importantly, Didiza said it needed to ensure that emerging producers were drawn into the centre of this development.
She also indicated that it was necessary to look at agricultural finance.
Didiza said the department, together with the Department of Trade, Industry and Competition, through the Industrial Development Corporation, had set up an agricultural industrial fund of R1-billion, which would support sectors, especially poultry and sugar.
She noted that this entailed blended finance mechanisms with grants and loan financing.
Didiza acclaimed that there were already about 31 projects in the pipeline that are fully owned or operated by black producers and entrepreneurs.
Didiza also mentioned support to small sugar producers through the provision of transloading facilities, which has reduced transport costs for farmers.
Didiza emphasised that central to the AAMP was transformation, with this forming one of its pillars.
Moreover, it also emphasised the importance investing in and maintaining agriculture.
It also aims to provide comprehensive farmer support and to address issues present in the sector.
Didiza emphasised that one pillar must look at supporting market expansion and promoting trade. She said that especially with the African Continental Free Trade Area, it is necessary to position producers and the agricultural industry to take advantage of this.
However, concurrent to this must be retaining markets already in existence, she emphasised. In this vein, she acclaimed that, last year, the department was able to revise some agreements with China, especially regarding apples, pears and lemons.
It is further exploring options in the Middle East, which Didiza highlighted as an important area especially for beef and other meat products.
Moreover, she said the plan also agreed on the need to look to how to improve localisation in the sector and reduce imports at certain levels, with the Russia-Ukraine situation underscoring the importance of looking at other critical inputs for the sectors.
She also noted a need for the sector to be more inclusive, with business and labour needing to continue engagements and see where there is convergence.
Didiza said that some targets of the AAMP include where the sector is in terms of productivity; and where black farmers are in terms of market share of the various commodities.
She emphasised that as it looks to make the sector more inclusive, it is important to ensure that it grows at the same time, as this would enable it to include more players.
Didiza emphasised that the AAMP was a living document, and should be seen as agile and able to adapt and time and challenges demand.